Exclusive: ‘Blue Planet II’ exec joins Honeyborne as Netflix grows UK footprint

Blue Planet II production exec Katie Hall has departed the BBC’s Natural History Unit to join James Honeyborne’s Netflix-backed production outfit.

TBI understands that Hall, who left the NHU last month, has joined the Blue Planet II creator’s fledgling production unit Freeborne Media as head of production.

Hall will be based out of Bristol, where Netflix is understood to have a small office, out of which Freeborne is operating.

Katie Hall

Hall’s appointment comes just months after the streamer struck a multi-year overall deal with Honeyborne for nature and science series in January.

Hall, a 20-year BBC NHU veteran who most recently served as a production exec with the acclaimed natural history division, is among the first hires at Freeborne. The exec worked closely with Honeyborne across four years on Blue Planet II.

Honeyborne served as creator and exec producer on the juggernaut series, which debuted in late 2017. His other credits include the BAFTA-winning Big Blue Live and the Emmy-nominated Wild New Zealand. He was also series producer on Africa.

Hall’s appointment comes as Netflix looks to grow its natural history footprint in the UK, working with some of the best British producers.

Last month, Silverback Pictures’ Alastair Fothergill revealed that he was working on new titles with the streaming giant following the launch of the David Attenborough-narrated Our Planet – Netflix’s first natural history original out of the region.

Sarafina DiFelice

UK docs team expands

Elsewhere, Netflix’s Sarafina DiFelice has relocated from Los Angeles to London for a stint in the UK.

The former associate director of programming for Canadian documentary festival Hot Docs joined Netflix as a content acquisitions exec in 2017, relocating from Toronto to LA.

In LA, DiFelice has been leading on acquisition efforts around indie feature-length documentaries for global release, reporting into Ben Cotner, director of original documentary.

In London, she joins Kate Townsend, also a director of original documentary for the streamer, who joined from the BBC’s ‘Storyville’ doc strand in 2017.

Netflix had five films screening at this week’s Sheffield Doc/Fest, including the Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez-fronted Knock Down The House, and held a private reception for producers and filmmakers on Monday (12 June), where Townsend welcomed DiFelice to London.

The SVOD has been quietly growing its UK docs team in the past year. As revealed by TBI, the streamer hired BAFTA and Grierson Award-nominated producer-director Jonathan Taylor – who was also in attendance at Sheffield – earlier this year.

This time last year, Netflix hired former Canal+ docs boss Diego Buñuel as a director of original documentary for the platform.